Starting again… with one of the best meals of my life.

It’s hard to know where to start. I have not written in three months as the wordpress platform was not available in Shanghai where I was posted for work. It was a busy end to 2012 and I found myself travelling around Asia for the first quarter of 2014. I am not sure where Dishpiglets is going but the focus for this year is going to be on my photography.

I have been wanting to write about one of my most memorable meals of my life.

Whilst we were on our honeymoon in Andalucia last year, we were treated* to a fabulous dinner at Calima, a two Michelin star restaurant located in Marbella, opened by famous Spanish chef Dani Garcia. Located at the luxurious Hotel Gran Melia Don Pepe, we didn’t know what to expect when we arrived and headed down a flight of stairs into the restaurant. When we were greeted by a fabulous view of the beach as the sun sets, we knew we were in for a treat.

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The tasting menu – cocinacontradicion consisted of 20 dishes. What ensued after we ordered was an amazing display of precise service by the waiters and waitresses dressed in black. It is difficult to describe the whole experience but you have to see it to believe it. We have never seen such a performance.

Our Pic-nic at Calima started with little bites in a three part tiffin carrier displaying corn with kimchi, brava potato and Iberian rustic bread. The brava potato was so light and crunchy and sets us off to an amazing start.
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Next up was caviar with dates. Never quite thought of this combination before but this was absolutely delicious!
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The “empanadilla” of my mum was the third dish which we were told to eat using our hands. I recalled reading about chef Dani Garcia’s three key words when working in the kitchen – memory, flavours and high technical excellence. The empanadilla which we tasted, melted in our mouth.
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Iced almond and foie
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Oyster, tomato, beet and orange
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What impressed us the most in terms of detail was the rocky seabed. Crunchy and with smells of the sea, this was like prawn cracker on a ‘godly’ level.
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Scallops in orange/ lemon was next.
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The suckling pig was nowhere near what we imagined given the portion. It was different- served in a wet base but the combination was well executed. I just wished we had a bit more of it.
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Our desserts came in three different course and the banana magu was the most impressive.
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Petit fours
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The restaurant was full that evening. It was clear that people have travelled from all around to visit Calima. Out of the twenty dishes we had, they thrilled, surprised and fulfilled our tummies.

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Being able to meet the talented chef Dani Garcia at the end of the night was such an honour. We had such a great time at Calima – the food, the setting and the service. It was definitely a night to remember.

*Big thank you to our family friends, Andrew & Lisa Smith who kindly bought this dinner as a gift for our wedding.

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Brunch in the east

Mr Buckleys has been very much talked about amongst my foodie friends. Located along Hackney Road, I have been there once prior to my return visit today. They serve brunch all day and have cocktails for day time drinking if you fancy it. The space itself is very simple and is a fantastic place to catch up with friends over breakfast.

Having been disappointed with my breakfast choice on my previous visit, I decided to go for a crowd favourite today. I ordered their potato & courgette rosti, bacon, avocado & poached eggs. My friends decided to go with the minute steak with poached eggs, spinach and béarnaise on sourdough and they thoroughly enjoyed it. As for me, I preferred my eggs a little bit more well done and the whole breakfast ended up being a little too dry for me. The potato and courgette rosti was not crispy on the surface and fell apart when I cut through it. It was not as seasoned as I wish it was but the bacon did the job.

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On this occasion, the service was a little slow with only three people servicing the floor. It came up to about £15 for my breakfast with a coffee and tea. Given that this was my second shot, I am not quite sure I will be back again anytime soon.

Dishpiglets’ rating: 6/10

Mr Buckley's on Urbanspoon

A vegan feast…

Last year, our dearest vegan friend, Richard, invited us to his Oxfordshire home to celebrate his birthday and enjoy a delightful vegan feast. Richard works in the hospitality industry and has been vegan for many years now. As meat eaters, we often joke about his ‘lentil eating habits’. However, there are wide misconceptions about the vegan diet. Having lived with Richard before, I have tried some of the best dishes he has created. One would be surprised by their variety, tastiness and clever way of using ingredients.

This coming week, 12th September, Richard has collaborated with No. 67 Cafe to present to us Meet & 3 Veg, a vegan supper club.

Meet & 3 Veg was born out of a belief that a vegan diet can – and should – be appealing to everyone; a desire to bring people of all dietary inclinations together to celebrate food; a passion for hospitality; and a respect for humans, animals & the planet.

These are some of the impressive vegan dishes we had last year.

veg-1-4 Mushroom tea – hijiki seaweed, fried tofu, shitake, hon shimeji and enerji mushroom.

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veg-1-6 Ruby chard and broad bean salad

veg-1-7 Muhammara

veg-1-8 Pepper and artichoke fidejua

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English berries and muscat grapes

As for the menu this Thursday, this is what you can expect.

meet and 3veg menu

Follow M&3V on twitter @meetand3veg
Call No. 67 – 020 7252 7649 to book. We will be there and hope to see some of you there!

Baby Pizza…

After being told it would be an hours’ wait for a table, we stood in the doorway deciding where to go instead.  You see, it was 9pm and we didn’t want to wait until 10pm for pizza.  As luck would have it, while we deliberated where to go next there must have been a cancellation as the maitre’d came barralling up to us and said there was a table available.  Baby Pizza had only been open 11 days, and it was clear that Chris Lucas’ latest restaurant was proving just as popular as it’s sister restaurant, Chin Chin.

Inhabiting the old space of Pearl on Church Street Richmond, Baby Pizza seems to be tapping into what Melbourne wants.  This no-bookings restaurant is another example of the trend in casual dining.  The days of fine dining, white table cloths and stuffy waiters are been taken over by restaurants where waiters are relaxed and friendly, and sharing of meals in encouraged.  Baby Pizza is on-trend in every way – fashionably and casually decked-out in neutral colours with the exception of a few neon signs here and there, timber tables with sunken baskets of cutlery and paper napkins enhance the casual feel.  A large bar dominates half the restaurant in which cured meats and cacti hang above the bar stools.  The open kitchen on display showcased the busy chefs at work (remaining surprisingly calm despite being less than two weeks in).

One side of the menu is devoted to pizzas (all under $20) and the other side covers pastas, meats, salads, sides and desserts.  Sticking with the name of the restaurant, we rightfully honed in on the pizzas.  The Salumi pizza with fior di latte, prosciutto cotto, spiced sausage, borgo hot salami, pancetta, oregano and san marzano tomatoes was the most dignified take on a ‘meat lovers’ I’ve ever had.  The quality of the meat and cheese made this pizza stand out.

The Fior di Zucca pizza with fior di latte, zucchini flowers, chilli, parmesan and fresh mint was made extra special with studs of salty anchovies.  The anchovies and the mint gave the pizza edge and this was easily my favourite on the night.

Always a sucker for pizzas with rocket, I ordered the San Daniele Prosciutto with fior di latte, parmigiano, san daniele dop prosciutto, rocket and san marzano tomatoes.  What is usually my favourite turned out to be rather bland in comparison to the delicious Salumi and Fior di Zucca.

All the pizzas were erring on the small side but made up for the lack of size with the fillingness of the dough.  Instead of having chewy yet crunchy crusts like the pizzas at Ladro in Melbourne, or Franco Manca and Pizza East in London, the bases at Baby Pizza were much more solid and almost ‘dampa’ like with very few of those big ‘air bubbles’ that I love.  The wine list has a heavy Italian influence with an impressive selection of cocktails also available.  The staff throughout the night were friendly, attentive and knowledgeable (not to mention, cool).

With the flurry of new pizza places opening in Melbourne, my bet is on Baby Pizza.  If the first 11 days of a restaurants life is anything to go by, it’s clear that Chris Lucas’ newest venture is here to stay.  If you’re willing to wait for a table, want to sample fresh and tasty pizza with other Melbourne foodie lovers, then get yourself down to Church Street Richmond.  Oh, and if you can’t get a table for lunch or dinner, they do breakfast from 7am.

Our meal with wine came to $100.

Dish Piglets’ Rating: 7.5/10

Baby Pizza
631-633 Church Street, Richmond
Tel:  (03) 9421 4599

A few bites of Croatia…

Croatian food is often overshadowed by the likes of Italian, Greek and Turkish food, but from my recent travels to the country I’ve learnt it certainly stands up to the neighbouring competition.  Nestled along the Adriatic, it was no surprise we regularly feasted on seafood. Just-caught seafood platters of octopus, mussels, calamari (often stuffed with cheese and ham), grilled fish, scampi and prawns were an unbeatable lunch after a long session at the beach.

The local dish, “buzzara”, consists of either prawns, mussels or scampi cooked in their shells with tomato, garlic, parsley and lemon juice. It’s a popular choice – but only if you’re willing to get messy and peel and peel for what feels like hours.  Don’t forget to wear a bib!

Another local dish to Croatia is cevapcici (try saying that after a few rakis!) which are skinless spicy sausages.

With Italy in such close proximity, it’s no wonder there’s a heavy Italian influence in Croatian cuisine. During my time in Croatia, I sampled countless tasty seafood pastas and risottos, but of special mention was the Dalmatian pasta.  Such a simple dish which I can’t wait to try out at home. Prosciutto and figs gently sautéed in olive oil, tossed with some al dente spaghetti and scattered with shavings of parmesan and chopped parsley. So simple, but so tasty. The sweet figs were a dream with the salty prosciutto.

Moving away from the grilled seafood and pastas is where I had my most memorable Croatian meal. We’d been sailing around Croatia for a week and our skippers suggested we try a great little restaurant/winery up in the hills of the island Vis, named Roki’s. We were collected from the port by the restaurant owner and embarked on a 20-minute drive along the dramatic coastline and up into the hills. Upon arriving at Roki’s we knew we were in for a treat.  There was no ordering necessary at this restaurant – instead the chefs had been preparing what was to be our dinner since early that morning. As we walked through the grounds of Roki’s we passed the outdoor kitchen and spotted what was to be our dinner – huge ceramic pots nestled on burning hot coals.

After selecting some of their homemade wines for the meal, we settled in for a feast under the beautiful trees outside. A giant local fish was so sweet and juicy it had everyone fighting for seconds (the name of the fish was Croatian and escapes me…). The rice, potatoes and carrots accompanying it were drenched in deliciously juices.

The chicken with aubergine and potatoes showcased slow cooking at it’s best.  So tender and succulent.

Last up was the huge octopus which barely managed to fit in the pot. Cooked for hours, its tenticles were tender and rich with not an ounce of chewiness. The richness of the juices melted into the rice, carrots and tomatoes making them taste fabulous too. What I love about this cooking was how unfussy and homestyle it was. No fancy ingredients, just slow cooking with top quality ingredients.

Mama Lan at Brixton

The gorgeous weather saw us travelling down south to Brixton. It was my third trip there and we didn’t really have an agenda. The bright sun had many out on the streets and once we emerged from the Brixton tube, it was the usual craziness. I love the markets here, the people and the music. It feels like I’m transported to another place.

As we were a little early for dinner, we headed to a local pub called Hootananny.
Everyone was sitting in the big courtyard enjoying the sunshine and beer. A rather cool place to hang out on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

When dinner time came, we headed to Brixton village market. A part of me knew that I wanted to have Kao Sarn. Afterall, we did travel from up north down to south of the river! The other part of me wanted to try some dumplings out at Mama Lan’s. We walked around and there were just way too many choices. In the end, we decided to go with Mama Lan.

After browsing through the simple menu, We ordered spicy chicken noodle (ban mein), boiled prawn dumplings and pork and chinese leaf fried dumplings aka Guo tie 鍋貼… I also got the Mama Lan’s specially brewed tea of chrysanthemum and goji berries.

When the dumplings came, it wasn’t the usual big huge plate of greasy oily dumplings we often get back in Melbourne…
Instead, there were only 5 moderate sized dumplings per plate. We knew that we were getting only 5 from the menu so we shouldn’t be complaining. Afterall, it’s London! I did hear that at Mama Lan’s, they source their meat from The Ginger Pig.

What we tasted were juicy meat fillings when we bit into them. I only wished that they were slightly more generous with their fillings. Between the boiled and the fried dumplings, I prefered the fried option. The contrasting texture of the slightly charred dumpling skin and the well-steamed dumpling was the perfect combination.

The spicy chicken noodles was really well presented and nicely spiced. It was not too spicy for my tastebuds though it was lacking a little in the flavour.

The bill came up to about £20++ for two of us including a beer. It was a cheap dinner but a part of me was left a little unsatisfied.

Dishpiglets’ rating: 7/10

Mama Lan
Unit 18
Brixton Village Market
SW9

Mama Lan Supper Club on Urbanspoon

Ciao to Italian chow…

The last ten days in Italy, while melting under the scorching sun, I have (once again) fallen in love with Italian food. Those Italians know how to do it. Simple flavours done spectacularly well.

First stop was Praiano on the Amalfi Coast.  We spent four days floating between the beaches of Praiano and Postiano. The coastline is beautiful – just like the postcards, but better. We had been given the hot tip to try a restaurant called Da Adolfo. Da Adolfo sits on a small beach a few coves down from Positano.

To get there you catch a little private boat from Positano pier – “lookout for the boat with the red fish on it” we were told.  Despite Da Adolfo having a boho and unpretentious vibe to it, you need to book as the place is rammed everyday in summer. 

It’s casual (waiters are barefoot), has great views and serves authentic Italian food.  What more could you ask for?  After sneaking a few looks at what other tables were eating, we decided to go with the mussels in tomato sauce, marinated octopus, seafood pasta and a Caprese salad.  

The food was insanely good, with a special mention of the mussels in tomato sauce.  I couldn’t let any of the deliciously sweet tomato sauce go to waste, and mopped up every last bit with fresh crusty bread, or as I like to call it, “carpet”.  Simple fresh flavours executed to perfection.

The next culinary highlight was a fabulous dinner in Rome.  

My Roman friend had recommended her favourite authentic pizza place, Da Francesco. The place is nestled in behind Piazza Navona and away from the tourist traps. Packed with locals, we waited outside on the cobblestones for 20 minutes for a table. Super thin crust pizzas with prosciutto, rocket and parmesan, truly al dente spaghetti coated in parmesan, garlic and shavings of crispy bacon and yet another Caprese salad left us very happy campers.  

The pizzas here are – apparently – some of the best in Rome.  It was no surprise to me that when assessing the dessert menu, Chap asked the waiter for another margarita pizza instead of sweets.

Florence saw the GPD (gelato per day) average sky-rocket.  At least one gelato per day was my minimum. Max was three. Oops. When it’s 38 degrees who can resist a refreshing citrus burst? Not me.

The evening saw us consume yet more delicious pizzas and pastas.  Pillowy soft ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach tossed in slow cooked bolognaise really does make me question the vacuum packed fresh pastas in supermarkets.

Our next destination took Italian food to the next level. We were staying with two Italian friends at their home in Cervia, on the north-east coast. We used our time at Cervia as an opportunity to not read menus, and instead ask our friends to order. Night after night, I vowed it was the best Italian meal I had ever eaten. It’s interesting to watch how the Italians do it. Instead of picking up a menu and ordering within 10 minutes, the Italians engage in long conversations about everything on the menu, asking about recipes, ingredients, what’s in season etc., before committing to a dish. Each night was a feast. Certainly no one-pizza-wonder. Instead huge antipasti platters, salads, cheeses, pastas, pizzas, meats, seafood. Washed down with an espresso, limoncello and grappa.

I’ve learnt a lot from my time in Italy. I managed to sustain a PPD (pizza per day) average of at least one a day for ten days and from this extensive research, I’ve realised it’s time to hold up on the ingredients when making pizzas. I’ve long been an ambassador for thin crust, but I’d still pile my bases high with tomato, cheese, prosciutto, mushrooms, onion, capsicum and any other veg that tickled my fancy… From now on, I’ll be adopting the Italian way of less is more.  Tomato, proscuitto, rocket and a few shaving of parmesan is more than enough.  Or if I can get my hands on some brilliant buffalo mozzarella, I’ll be sticking with fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil.  And when it comes to pastas, I’ll be cooking mine even more al dente and instead of making sauce the feature and dumping a packet of store-bought pasta in boiling water, where possible I’ll seek out fresh homemade pasta and make simple sauces to simply coat the pasta. Project for when I arrive back in Melbourne: Find a good Italian cooking class. Does anyone know one?

Sadly I have to say goodbye – or ciao – to Italian food.  I hope to be back in the next couple of years. Tomorrow we depart for Croatia… I know nothing about Croatian food, so I’m looking forward to trying lots of things.  

Stay tuned. Chow.

Hakkasan

Having lived in London for a few years, when new friends come to town they often ask for restaurant suggestions.  I have a list – a long one – which covers cheap and cheerful gems, middle of the range must-visits, and high-end budget blowing destinations.  I recently scribbled down a list for a fellow foodie, and a few days later I was invited to join her, her mum and a few other friends for a feast at Hakkasan.  Oooh, what an unexpected treat.

We arrived at the restaurant a dash early so decided to prop the bar for a quick cocktail.  One pink mojito later (delicious) we descended the stairs to the basement dining room.  The room had an undeniable nightclubby feel to it – albeit a classy nightclub.  Decor of dark wood, dim lights and a big sleek bar seemed slightly dated, and not entirely my style, but still incredibly luxurious.  We settled in our big corner table and I couldn’t help but realise how full the restaurant was – impressive for a Monday night.

There are many benefits of dining in groups.  Apart from the obvious – catching up with multiple friends at once – another huge drawcard is how much more one can sample from the menu.  We decided to share everything and must have had in excess of 10 dishes.

The dim sum platter consisted of eight delicately steamed and bursting with flavour dumplings – scallop, har gau, prawn and chive, and mushroom.

The salt and pepper squid was so lightly fried, it almost tasted healthy!  Super thin batter, with succulent and juicy squid.  Often this dish is completely butchered with thick batter and chewy squid.  This however was exactly how it should be with tender squid and the perfect amount of salt and pepper.  The best S&P squid I’ve had.

The duck spring rolls were a hit.  Thin and flaky pastry formed a capsule around the richly marinated duck.  The cucumber gave the roll a refreshing and light crunch.

Vegetarian gyoza with a lightly fried base came with a lovely dipping sauce.

The king prawns were the biggest king prawns I’ve seen since living in the UK.  I’m so sick of those tiny, little, shrimpy shrimps that keep appearing on my plate in other restaurants!  The fresh prawns had been butterflied and wok-tossed with a spicy yellow bean sauce.

The pan-fried Wagyu beef was a succulent success.  Fat chunks of tender beef coated in sticky Szechuan sauce put to shame all the other Szechuan beef dishes I’ve sampled in my time.

Zingy and fresh stir-fried asparagus, lotus root and lily bulb in black pepper.

Crispy skinned duck with black truffle and mushroom sauce was rich and beautiful, and had a great depth of flavour.  So rich was the dish, I was happy to be sharing with five others as despite being a lover of truffles, eating the whole dish to myself would have been a big ask!

A claypot filled with homemade tofu, aubergine and mushrooms in a chilli and black bean sauce made a good argument for becoming vegetarian.  The silky tofu was the smoothest I’ve tasted – if tofu was always this good, I’d eat it every day!

Hakkasan lived up to the reviews.  It’s a special occasion restaurant and is certainly the best Chinese food I’ve had. The highlight was the food – which, considering it’s a restaurant, is a good thing.  Its downfalls – the decor resembles a slightly dated nightclub or hotel bar, service was a little shady in patches (when you’re paying that much, it should be nothing but seamless) and the prices (yikes!).  Come for the food.  And come with a full wallet.

Dish Piglets’ Rating:  8.5/10.

Hakkasan
17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London. W1J 6QB.
Tel: 020 7907 1888.

Hakkasan Hanway Place on Urbanspoon

A taste of surprise – Viajante

Birthdays are days on which I like to be spoiled. It is one of my few excuses to dine at nice restaurants and treat myself. For the dude’s birthday, I often plan a full day of surprise. He doesn’t have any idea what the day involves and this year, I took him to Viajante, a Michelin Star restaurant by Nuno Mendes (El Bulli graduate).

Nestled in the former Bethnal Green Town Hall building, we were welcomed into the restaurant by the host and even though we were 20 minutes late (!!!), they were still accommodating and friendly. We were shown our tables and I took to the setting immediately. Gorgeous scandinavian designed tables and chairs gave the restaurant a friendly designer feel. The open kitchen added to the atmosphere and overall, a beautiful, simple and laid back setting, allowing diners to ease into.

We were there for Saturday lunch and the menu gave only a few selections i.e. 3, 6 or 9 courses. We decided quickly upon the three course with beverage pairing, without knowing what it was going to be. A series of amuse-bouche got us started and the dude and I wondered for a long time when the first course was served / going to be served. This guessing game and not knowing what to expect was quite exciting to begin with but also rather nerve wrecking for the first-timers.

Our adventure started off with:

Thai explosion II

Amaranth with sorrel – The crunchy popping was quite exciting though half the time we were guessing what it was.

Squid with monk’s beard – The squid was tender but there wasn’t much of it.

Potato with yeast and black olive – The potato was cooked perfectly and the combination really came together in the mouth.

Bread and butter – my favourite, out of the lot. We were served warm crusty potato baguette and olive focaccia together with in-house made yellow butter and brown butter. The warmth of the bread and the softness of the salted butter were a match made in heaven. Little did we know our first course was about to start…

Nuno Mendes, the very man himself served our first course – Zander with cured yolk, chervil root and fennel. The sommelier introduced us to Quinta da Muradella Gorvia Blanco 2006, Monterrei to go with the fish, as the beverage pairing. The fish was cooked well but the dish didn’t wow me. Personally, the cured yolk and fish didn’t taste too good together. (side note: I do not like uncooked eggs and partly why I didn’t quite take to the dish)

Our second course was duck with cabbage, oysters and barley which was matched with Domaine Jean Tardy et Fils Fixin ‘La Place’ 2007. There was duck heart and duck tongue in the mix of it all, according to our waiter. It was good not to know which was which, as the dude and I had a guessing game whilst we ventured into our duck meat and organs. The duck meat was cooked to perfection, tender and slightly red and it went well with the oysters, weirdly enough. The tongue and heart were really delicate and tender to the bite. I thought it finished off the dish really well. Got a thumbs up from me and the dude.

Funnily enough, the table next to us which sat six ladies weren’t too pleased when they heard heart and tongue in the mix. They started questioning the waiter and asked him to point out the odd bits but he declined. I suppose it was the excitement of what lies within the plate for us though I didn’t think the ladies took too well to the internal organs and one was seen running off her seat towards the toilet, whilst we watched in amusement. On that note, for the non-adventurous diners, this might not be your cup of tea.

Pear with pecan and cider were served next to cleanse our palate before our third and final course came. The freshness of the pear granita was really well paired with the pecan puree and cider, subtle and refreshing. It was so delicious that we were nearly licking our bowls!

We finished our final course with salsify and mellow with chocolate which was matched with Chateu de Jau Muscat de Rivesaltes 2010, a delicious dessert wine. The salsify was a tad too thick and chewy for my liking and we couldn’t quite figure out what it was till the very end.

We headed to the bar (right next to the restaurant) after to have a cleansing ale and were served our petit fours (more food!!!). I could remember the olive oil bites we had and they were simply amazing.

Just before we left, we were given a printed menu of what we had earlier in the afternoon. It gave an ending to the meal and allowed us to recall our earlier dining experience. A nice touch.
The service throughout the afternoon was exceptional although the food was a little hit and miss. I do think it’s a nice restaurant to check out, though I have heard that the more affordable Corner Room also run by Nuno Mendes is actually better.

Meal for two, with beverage pairing, two beers and service came to about £140.

Dishpiglets’ rating: 7/10

Patriot Square,
Bethnal Green,
London E2
Tel: 020 7871 0461.

Viajante on Urbanspoon

The Ledbury

Two Michelin Stars, 14th in this years The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, hundreds of fabulous reviews…  The numbers were stacking up and I was one excited little Dish Piglet!

Friday night and The Ledbury is humming.  Seated at our table, I took in the beautiful surrounds: huge windows looking out over Ledbury Road, crisp white table cloths, shiny cutlery and – the clincher for girls – a handbag hook to hang my bag.  This place oozed class, with all minor details covered.

The service was exceptional.  Friendly, knowledgeable, and not-at-all pretentious (as can often be the case with restaurants of this league).  It’s a well oiled machine where waiters appear and disappear at exactly the right time.

There are two menu options – degustation or three courses.  We chose three courses, which was more than enough considering the endless flow of amuse bouche which graced our table.  In total we tallied up 11 dishes that arrived (12, if you include the soufflé eaten in the kitchen with the chefs at the end of the night… More on that later!).

First up, the bread.  Ooooh, that bread.  Warm, crusty, soft, brown – heaven.  If that wasn’t enough, soon after we were offered mouth-wateringly delicious bacon and onion scrolls which were straight from the oven.  I am a bread-lover from way back, but I’m convinced not even the strictest carb-free dieter could resist this bread!

A delicate amuse bouche of foie gras on an oat shortbread set the tone for the evening.  Next was a taster of salmon and caviar served on a dollop of crème fraiche.   Then, a beautifully runny quail egg wrapped in flaky kataifi pastry, coupled with an asparagus and baby leaf salad.  These three tasters showcased the talents of the chefs – they were all delicate bites, interesting flavours, and brilliantly executed with incredible attention to detail.  It set the bar high and we awaited our entrees with anticipation…

For my entree I chose Scottish roasted scallops with Jersey Royals.  The thick, succulent scallops were cooked on a bed of seaweed which gave a lovely depth of flavour.  As a devoted quail lover, Chappy chose the roast quail with peas, Iberian ham and mousserons.  The quail was cooked in chicken broth for six minutes, then gently pan-fried, resulting in an incredibly tender piece of meat.

Choosing a main was a tough job.  Eventually I settled on pork with nashi pear, celeriac, dried chicory and dandelion.  Once again, blown away.  Can The Ledbury do anything wrong?   I don’t think so…  The pork was divine and the crackling, well it was cracking!  As a lover of the pork and apple combo, it was a refreshing twist to couple the pork with pear.  The flavours complement each other perfectly – possibly even better than apple.  Must try pear sauce next time I have pork sausages!

If I thought choosing a main was difficult, let’s just say that when it came to choosing a dessert I was completely stumped.  I guess it must be the same as choosing between which of your children you like most…  The lovely waiter recognised the stressful situation Chap and I were in (how can one choose between white chocolate, soufflé, brown sugar tart, chocolate pave, mille feuille, a daughter or a son…?!) and took our menus away declaring “I’ll choose for you”.   Oooooh, boy did this get me excited.

While we waited for our ‘surprise’ desserts, another amuse bouche arrive.  This time a smashed and ‘burnt’ meringue with tangy citrus sauce.   When The Ledbury say ‘burnt’, it’s not the type of burnt charcoal toast I often throw in the bin…  Here the term ‘burnt’ has an entirely different meaning.  Rather, the meringue was slightly ‘brown’ and ‘caramelised’.  The textures were amazing with gooey, chewy and crunchy bits throughout.

As we sat and played the ‘guess what dessert we’re getting’ game, three plates arrived.  Three desserts…  It was our lucky day!  The brown sugar tart with grapes and ginger ice cream was sweet, velvety smooth and addictive.  The chocolate pave was dark, incredibly rich and heart-stoppingly good.  However, the dessert that stole the show was the passionfruit soufflé with ice-cream.  This wasn’t just an average soufflé.  It arrived with a small production – the waiter presenting us the soufflé, and then plunging a dessert spoon laden with ice-cream right into the middle of it.  The soufflé was so light and airy, it melted in your mouth.  And coupled with the ice-cream – the hot and cold combo took this dessert to the next level.

Completely full and thoroughly happy, we paid the bill.  While munching on petit fours (delicious, of course), our lovely waiter came to us and asked “would you like a tour of the kitchen?”.  WHAT?  Could this experience get any better?!  Coincidentally two of our great friends were also dining in the restaurant that night, and they were offered the exclusive kitchen tour as well.  We excitedly bounded down the stairs into the kitchen.  Brett Graham – head chef – immediately came and introduced himself.  What a lovely guy.  While chatting, a chef whipped us up another soufflé which we ate off the pass surrounded by the entire kitchen team.  A memorable end to an amazing night. 

My lack of photos can only be explained by the fact I was having too much fun.  On my next visit, both me, and the camera, will be focused.

The Ledbury.  My new favourite restaurant in London.  Possibly the world.  Simply incredible.

Our meal with wine came to £228.

Dish Piglets’ Rating: 10/10.

The Ledbury
127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill. London. W11 2AQ.
Tel: 020 7792  9090.

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